Looking back at 23; looking ahead to 24.

It’s been a good year. A really, really good year. the more I look back on it, the more I wish I could high-five 23-year-old me and say, “way to go, man. Good year. I got the next leg.”

I made a list on my birthday last year of things I wanted to accomplish this year, and here’s what they were (And whether or not I completed it)

CONCRETE GOALS [measurable]
-Go back to Red River Gorge and hike (didn’t go)
-go on an out-of-state trip, stay at a hotel, and see some things (I went to Asheville, NC in May and I got my own hotel, drove the whole way there and back, walked around downtown, saw the coolest coffee shop/book shop/wine bar I’ve ever seen, ate at a hot dog stand…it was great.)
-Preach 6 more times (YES. I was so lucky to be a part of a series in 1 Timothy that my pastor and I preached together during the summer. It was amazing. So I got at least 6 other sermons under my belt.)
-Lead someone to Jesus (nope. didn’t. still working through this.)
-Purchase weights/start lifting (nope.)
-Pay mom $200 for books she bought me in school (nope…sorry, mom…)

ABSTRACT GOALS [not especially measurable]
-Stop spoiling body with junk food (not exactly. in some ways I’ve eaten better than ever, in some ways worse. So nope, I don’t feel like I achieved this.)
-Stop spoiling mind with lazy thinking (not really satisfied with my progress here. I always wish I did more reading and less “entertaining”)
-Be a neighbor, a vessel for community (in some ways, yes. But in a lot of ways, no. I definitely turn down a lot of opportunities, but at the same time, I’ve been fortunate to have some people to my house [more than ever before anyway] and slowly make a few new friends. So, I guess there’s progress here.)
-Pray for others (I’m satisfied with this. I’ve spent more time deliberately in prayer than ever before in my life, and it’s a habit I hope to maintain.)

A few highlights of being 23:
-had my first REALLY serious girlfriend
-also had the worst heartbreak I’ve ever had
-learned how to not get over pain, but to get through it
-moved to Lexington, Kentucky
-dealt with utility companies to get our house warm and operational
-joined an indoor soccer league
-changed banks
-was there for my little brother’s initiation ceremony at his 13th birthday
-had a really, really good conversation with a friend about evangelism
-made the hardest choice I’ve ever made: to leave my home church of 9 years and find a church community in Lexington
-Got my first tattoo!
-took a full-time job as purchasing assistant at A Cup of Common Wealth (brought in two types of smallwares for retail; have had to talk to a number of vendors, both reaching out to vendors as well as being reached out to; learned a lot about inventory, ordering, cash handling, other business operations)
-Moved in with two guys who were almost complete strangers and have learned the frustrating and sanctifying qualities of living with other people. They’re two of my best friends now.

Man, it’s been a really good year. It’s the most real, raw year I’ve ever had – I’ve hurt more than ever, but I’ve had deeper joy than ever. I’ve made some of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and some of the most sensuous. I’ve worked harder than ever and been lazier than ever. I’ve been more intimidated and more confident than ever.

If I could summarize this year as being any one thing, I’d say it was a wake-up year. I’ve just faced a lot of realities and parts of adulthood I’ve never had to before. I’m a little more prepared. I’ve got a little more perspective. I know I’ve messed up a lot, I know I’ve failed at a lot of things, but that’s okay, because there’s a lot of grace from God and a lot of room to grow.

With that in mind, let’s look at the next year.

Looking ahead to 24.
If 23 was a year of waking up, 24 is a year of cutting some fat (literally and figuratively!) With some lessons of the last year in mind, I want to look forward to the next year.

A quick aside – I do not believe that years in and of themselves have any inherent value or qualities. I think that time is an arbitrary divide that helps us as humans to quantify our lives and establish constructs and do things like this – reflect.

As I’ve prayed and considered what the Lord has for the next year, here are the themes that seem to keep coming up:

Leadership – I realized that I’m the oldest person in my house, and I sometimes act like the least mature. I realized that I’m the second-longest tenured person at my place of employment, and I rarely act like that. I realize that I’ve been following Jesus for 9 years, and I don’t act like that around other believers nor in my own personal disciplines. I struggle with self-confidence which is part natural insecurity, but I think it’s mostly a lack of confidence in Jesus and who He is. I hope that this year holds an increased confidence in who Jesus is and who I am in Him, so that I can move forward in a degree of leadership and maturity for other believers in Jesus.

Honesty – Here’s something I’ve learned in the aftermath of a failed relationship, in the midst of living with roommates who do things that get on my nerves, working with vendors to whom you sometimes just have to say no, and working for a boss who expects you to complete your goals on time and for whom you have to have a reason for them not being complete: honesty is truly the best policy. I appreciate that truth hurts, and I appreciate that sometimes I hate the way the truth makes me feel (ie. when I’m annoyed by something I shouldn’t be annoyed by; I’m insecure because of something that shouldn’t make me insecure) but it’s easiest in the long run.
When you don’t tell the truth up front, you just create these barriers between you and the other person. You start putting up a bunch of crap you’ll have to work through and explain later. That’s just annoying and unnecessary.
My goal is to get in more of a habit of truth-telling. Even if the truth is hard, because it’s a good characteristic to have. It may hurt at first, but it won’t hurt as bad later when I have less crap to work through.
Eliminating unhealthy habits – this is a bit of a carry-over from last year. I’m not pleased with my diet; I’m not pleased with my indiscipline with a budget; I’m not pleased with spontaneous spending; I’m not pleased with not having a planned schedule for my days. I think that these are things will improve my health – both physically as well as mentally, and ultimately (I believe) spiritually. I want to take steps to change these habits over the course of the next year.
Taking risks – I’ve noticed that something I did really wrong over the last year was to fear rejection. I feared failure. I only did the things I felt REALLY good about completing, and I only reached out to people for social functions when I was feeling really confident. Particularly, I’ve not taken the risks of being in community with people because I’m afraid that between busy schedules, I won’t meet anyone I can count on when I need them the most – and I have therefore not taken the risk of friendship (friendship requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is risk.) I need to overcome a fear of failure in the next year.
Reducing entertainment – you become what you consume. I like to think I’m a smart guy, and yet I irritate myself with how much cheap entertainment I consume and how little thinking I do relative to that. I sit around on social media, football manager, and watching the television. I wait for my roommate to come home so we can play FIFA and do other mindless thing. I’m totally okay with entertainment, just in much more moderation than I currently practice.
Thoroughness – this is a lesson my job has taught me. I have a lot of opportunities to not be, but just like the honesty thing – it’s ultimately easier to do it right then and there as opposed to putting things off for long periods at a time.
Leave work at work, and home at home – also a lesson from work (And this will, ideally, coincide with thoroughness.) I too often find myself (in boredom) checking my email at home and stressing about an email I got that reminds me of something I have to do at work. I want to be better about separating my work life from my personal life, so that outside of work, I breathe more deeply, and enjoy life more thoroughly. It will also help motivate me to be more thorough when at work, I believe.

A lot of these are more abstract – I haven’t put a ton of quantifiable goals on myself this year (although I think my brain works a little better with quantities.) But I think this is a year of maturing, which tends to not be numerical (although maybe I can make it so…)

Finally, I’d just like to thank all of the family and friends who’ve helped me through a lot and given me a lot of grace. Too many to name, but thanks to everyone. 23 was good.

24 will be better!

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